Tuesday, 21 May 2013


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released its 2013 report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” recently. As the title suggests, it focuses on the success stories of the global South, and mostly the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and china) which have achieved tremendous economic development and improvement in human development indices. This is with a view of promoting discussion and even imitation by countries in the global north and south of the best practices adopted by these countries.
The Human Development Index was developed in the early 1990s by a group of economists including Amartya Sen, so as to more accurately measure how a country’s economic growth was being translated to improved wellbeing of its citizens. According to Wikipedia, HDI “is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income indices to rank countries into four ties of human development: very high human development, high human development, medium human development and low human development.”
The human development index was meant to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting, and towards people-centered policies. It measures the life expectancy at birth, the mean years of schooling among those aged 25 years and the expected years of schooling of those aged five years, as well as the standard of living of the citizens by looking at the Gross National Income per capita.
According to the report, Kenya is ranked at 145 out of 186 countries of which data is available, in the level of low human development. Kenya has an under five mortality of 85 deaths per 1000 births, life expectancy of fifty seven years, adult literacy rate of 87%(over 15 years) and GNI per capita of 1,541 USA dollars as per 2005 rates. Although Kenya is best ranked among countries of the East African Community, with Uganda ranked 162, Tanzania 152, Rwanda at 167 and Burundi at 178, clearly there remains massive room for improvement.
The three notable “drivers of development”, according to the UNDP report, which have propelled the growth of economies such as India, Brazil, China, Mexico and Indonesia, which Kenyan policy makers might want to take heed of include the following:

  • A proactive developmental state that has a long term vision and leadership, with shared norms and values, rules and institutions that build trust and cohesion, and are pragmatic in terms of policies and ideologies they adopt to bring about human development.

  • Tapping of global markets. The strategy should be one of “importing what the world knows and exporting what it wants.” It is imperative that Kenya adopts a policy that is maneuvers between excessive liberalization and statism, depending on its unique capabilities. Regionalism is also encouraged, as is focusing on niche products.

  • Determined social policy innovation. The report encourages public investment in infrastructure, which was largely been the case in the Kibaki administration, and looks set to continue with the jubilee government, as well as in education and health. The investment in health could certainly improve, and the free maternal service to be offered is a step in the right direction. The Kenyan government should also end discrimination and unequal treatment, according to gender, age and ethnicity. I hope the 30% rule, as well as making illegal cultural practices such as FGM and wife inheritance, as well as child marriages go a long way in fighting this. The civil society should also keep the government and leadership accountable.

Kenya can also improve include increasing the income of Kenyans, reducing poverty, gender and inter generational inequality, social integration that has been damaged by fractious politics and historical injustices, and human insecurity. Human insecurity caused by hunger, disease, crime, unemployment, human rights violations and environmental challenges is a major challenge to the jubilee government, the private sector and civil society to bring about human development. It must be addressed as a national crisis.
The UNDP report concludes that less developed countries can learn and benefit from success of emerging economies in the south, new institutions and new partnerships can facilitate regional integration and development, and new global governance institutions that reflect the new realities of a more powerful south are needed.
In a nutshell, Kenya’s human development index is much lower than I thought it would be, especially when compared with countries such as Ghana, Libya, South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana. The undo report gives clear and concise recommendations on what we should do if we want to develop, drag millions of Kenyans out of poverty and join the exciting and innovative countries of the south as an African lion that puts human development at the very centre of its policies and economic agenda.

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